NO DOUBT you’ve heard of Man Caves.
The very name conjures a whiff of dirty socks, decaying mice in unswept corners, leaking pipes, a hint of mold and ancient leather chairs silvered with duct tape. It’s a place where guys do . . . stuff, where there’s an unspoken message on an invisible white-washed fence slat: Girlz Keep Out!
Now meet the She Shed, about as opposite to a Man Cave as you can get. Requiring a great deal of effort and shopping, no matter how small the space, no matter how simple the concept.
The only requirement: It must bring a heave to the bosom and a sigh of intense pleasure. Also, plants.
To my mind, of course, a greenhouse is the ideal, either attached to the house, or free standing. I’m easy, see?
I saw a photograph of perfection once. It was set in a Connecticut garden a dash through the snow from the side porch of a fancified farmhouse. Within were orchids and hibiscus and lemon trees in bloom and palm trees tickling the ceiling. Flagstone pavers surrounded the freeform heated swimming pool. Imagine floating in this wonderland, staring up through frosty glass panes at the stars. Sipping bubbly, wrapped in a monogrammed robe. . . . What noise do I make in my throat to sum it up?
Short of that, so very short of that, a She Shed might be . . .
Something as simple as a corner of a room, a sunny spot near a window with a white wicker chair heaped with cushions, a pouf for your feet and a potted palm to tangle in your hair as you reread Jane Eyre for the 49th time. A small fountain might be a nice addition.
Or just let the faucet drip in a bathroom and deck the walls in rose-strewn paper, a billow of lace curtain at the window, baskets of ferns hanging from a deep green ceiling, and an oriental fan-back chair in a corner, for pulling on your socks.
Growing more elaborate, consider a freestanding structure, say a miniature chapel, all white wood and bleached floors with a steeply pitched roof from which dangles a crystal chandelier. A purple velvet chaise, all deep pile and pillow-strewn, would invite lounging, and French doors would open to an exceedingly lush garden (cue birds and butterflies). All in all an elegant spot for tea; porcelain cups and a silver service required. In general, this concept requires servants. By the way, if you can do it all yourself, you are not my friend.
Or perhaps it’s a trailer. A blazing path of pink and orange zinnias lining the walk to a Harold and Maude* gypsy wagon strewn with ragged oriental rugs and shimmering, glittering scarves and beads and turquoise walls and bits of stained glass to catch the light and turn dust motes to rubies and emeralds.
Meanwhile, an aesthete might prefer a rooftop atelier with floor-to-ceiling windows, a curve of Roche Bobois leather sofa and a single large ficus.
If you’re agile, it could be a tree house. If you’re very short, consider a child’s log cabin from Walmart.
Need more ideas? Pinterest offers the motherlode.
Now, sketch up or print out your fantasy retreat and slip it under the Man Cave door with a reminder: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Who needs roses?
*Among my top 10 favorite movies, Harold and Maude is a 1971 black comedy starring Ruth Gordon as a fabulously eccentric 80-year-old and Bud Cort as her 20-year-old lover.